- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking back

“Well over halfway through the month of December, only two Americans have been lost in combat operations in Iraq - about the daily body count in a major American city,” Victor Davis Hanson writes at National Review Online

“What is incomprehensible is not just that Gen. David Petraeus turned around an entire theater - Americans from William Tecumseh Sherman to Matthew Ridgway had done just that amid media gloom and doom - but that his efforts when begun were so roundly demonized, and when nearly ending in success so roundly ignored. …

“Quite suitably we end the war year with an Egyptian-based Iraqi journalist trying to hit the president of the United States with his two shoes - being canonized by the Arab Street and not-sot-secretly appreciated by the American Left (far more interested in the Miranda rights of the assailant than the breach of security that allowed not one, but two projectiles to target their president).

“The irony was not just that, had he tried that with Saddam Hussein he would have been brush shredded in the basement, but that such a self-described crusading journalist would not even dare such theater in [President Hosni] Mubarak’s authoritarian Egypt. It was more of the same old, same old from the blame ‘em Middle East: ‘We hate you for doing business with our oppressive dictators; and we also hate you for losing blood and treasure to liberate us from our oppressive dictators and fostering democracy, and we also just hate you since so many of you seem to want us to hate you.’”

Not yet a senator

“Wall Street titan Bernard Madoff proved you can take an outstanding reputation and ruin it overnight. Now Roland Burris has demonstrated that even a mediocre reputation can be instantly destroyed,” Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman writes.

“Burris is the prototypical time-serving career politician who owes his success to being simultaneously ambitious and bland. He has never been one to challenge the status quo, but no one underestimates his self-esteem. The two Burris children, after all, are named Roland and Rolanda. …

“When the news broke that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to auction off Barack Obama’s Senate seat, Burris called his behavior ‘appalling.’ After the governor appointed him to fill the vacancy, though, the onetime comptroller-for-life lost interest in the scandal. ‘I have no comment on what the governor’s circumstance is,’ he demurred.

“But logic has never been his strong suit,” Mr. Chapman said. “A longtime advocate of a national handgun ban, Burris organized Chicago’s first Gun Turn-in Day in 1993. But when he ran for governor the following year, he admitted that he owned a handgun (‘for protection’) and did not hand it over to police as he urged others to do.

“‘He had simply forgotten about it,’ his spokesman said at the time - a claim that, if believable, suggested Burris was not exactly the model for conscientious gun ownership. ‘Honey, didn’t I used to have a pistol around here? Any idea where it might be?’”

Still a senator

“Something rare may transpire in the Senate in the coming week or so, if Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware casts a vote in the 111th Congress,” CQ’s Kathleen Hunter writes at www.cqpolitics.com.

“Biden was elected vice president on Nov. 4, but he also won election that day to his seventh full term in the Senate and he will take his seat in the chamber again next week when the 111th Congress convenes Jan. 6,” the writer said.

“Biden has not yet said when he will resign from the Senate, although he will do so before Jan. 20, when Barack Obama will take the oath as president and Biden will be sworn in as vice president.

“In an ordinary year, a new Congress would take a break between its opening day or two and late January. But with the economy in a deep recession, the financial system in crisis and two wars in progress, there will be no such breathing space this time around.

“Obama wants Congress to have a massive economic recovery package ready for his signature as soon as possible after he takes the oath Jan. 20. That means both chambers may be taking roll call votes before Inauguration Day.

“‘If a critical vote comes up and Sen. Biden is needed, he will vote,’ Biden spokeswoman Annie Tomasini said Tuesday.

“If Biden does cast another Senate vote before assuming the vice presidency, it would be the first time in 60 years that a vice-president-elect voted in a new Congress prior to being sworn in as vice president. Kentucky Sen. Alben W. Barkley cast several Senate votes in January 1949 - including to confirm Dean Acheson as secretary of State - before resigning his seat to become Harry S. Truman’s vice president.”

Barney vs. Barack

“Well, that didn’t take long,” the New York Post says in an editorial.

“Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank hasn’t quite broken with Barack Obama, but he criticized the president-elect - and in a way rarely heard from a left-wing Democrat,” the newspaper said.

“Obama, complains Frank, ‘overestimates his ability to take people, particularly our colleagues on the right, and, sort of, charm them into being nice.’

“Now, what could have prompted Barney Frank to aim one of his celebrated verbal barbs at Obama?

“The issue is the prez-to-be’s invitation to evangelical pastor Rick Warren, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.

“But where some see in that invite a good-faith effort by Obama to reach out to a community whose members, by and large, did not support his candidacy, many gays - including Frank - discern deliberate insult.

“They say they are ‘offended.’

“It’s hard to see why.

“During the campaign, Obama was totally unambiguous when it came to the question of same-sex marriage: He’s against it, though he opposes efforts to ban it legally (like the recently passed proposition in California), and favors civil unions.

“In fact, nearly two out of three Americans, according to a recent Newsweek poll, oppose same-sex marriage.

“So why should Obama turn his back on someone who not only reflects his views, but also those of an overwhelming majority of Americans? …

“But the growing flap over Rick Warren suggests that if Obama has ‘overestimated’ anything, it’s not his ability to charm the right, but his capacity for keeping in check the legion of whiners on the left.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail Greg Pierce.

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